The Animal Farm

August 24th, 2006

Update Proper

It’s time I provided an adequate summary of recent Sowers History for scholarly record. First, as was previously indicated, I am no longer an employee of the Virtual Environments Lab. I offered to provide an account of my stay, but no recounting would be complete without profanity and an hour’s worth of vocal ranting (which could easily translate into fourteen pages digitally). Thus, I will abstain from such tales. However, feel free to ask me in person, in which case you should keep your children out of earshot and get a comfortable chair.

Second, I am now a graduate student. Classes are as unendearing as ever, but the highlight is that I am a TA for CS111 - Introduction to Data Structures. I enjoy teaching and it’s pretty laid back, so I’m very much looking forward to my first lecture come Friday.

Third, I am a participant in the RedOctane Experimental Gameplay Competition, which I mentioned on my other blog (and may have mentioned here). I made it into the 2nd round, which has two important implications: (a) I get a free RedOctane dance mat, and (b) I get to program the game design I submitted. I’ve been slacking off on the programming, but I’m still supremely confident that I can implement my game idea in time.

Fourth, Mario Strikers has occupied a great deal of my time. It’s the Mario Soccer game, and it offers great multiplayer gameplay and a very challenging computer. My only problem is that it lacks depth, which is the same problem I have with most of the Mario sports games. There could be a little more variety and substance, thus you may want to consider waiting for it to drop below $50, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had.

Fifth, the Snakes on a Plane party was excellent. We all had snakes and we all had planes, and we were the biggest geeks in the theater - a title I wear with pride and gusto. The movie was excellent with respects that it did live up to the hype and did not disappoint in the ‘horrible yet quotable’ lines category. But it is something you have to see with a group or you will lose a lot of the energy. If you want an actual quality assessment of the movie, you will never, ever find one.

Annnndddd, I’m out.

August 24th, 2006

I Hate Technology

I apologize for the downtime. I was in mid-update when the main page went down. I was lucky to be able to reclaim the lost data, but I lost some of the formatting (farewell, my precious italics).

I should have a proper update within the week, hopefully before tomorrow’s conclusion.

I mean it.

August 14th, 2006

Rockin’ Out

A rather minimalistic update, but something to quench your thirst:

I have watched the first 56 (out of lord knows how many) episodes of Bleach, and I feel comfortable saying it is nothing special. The series starts out relatively decently, albeit with a somewhat silly premise. Characters are introduced well, action builds up, things flow smoothly. At around episode 13, the climx occurs, and the whole anime seems to shift focus.

At first, I wasn’t sure what the shift in focus was. Things just seemed to be moving in less interesting directions. The ‘gotchas’ weren’t as interesting; the twists weren’t as twisty. I kept watching through to about episode 30 and it hit me.

I was watching Dragon Ball Z again.

By episode 20, the show had essentially become Dragon Ball Z with swords. You know the formula. Main character constantly overcomes stronger and stronger enemies, becoming strong himself - either via training or pushing his own limits during battle. He is followed by an entourage of supporting cast, who, while they gradually increase their own talents, never live up to the protagonist. Battles are mixed with excessively long (boring) dialog and the frequent flashback. The story moves at a sickeningly slow pace. Everything becomes very uninteresting, and the viewer wonders, “why am I still watching this?”

I kept watching, hoping that the trend did not continue. It did. I’m not going to go any further.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Sticky keys.

August 9th, 2006

Selling Out

I am beaten.

I fought valiantly against the very idea of owning a cell phone for the longest time. Even the land line, which sat in the corner quiet and harmless, was my sworn enemy. Leaving myself an opening for people to contact me whenever it was unwelcome was a vulnerability I could hardly stomach. So I argued, fighting and biting and clawing and raving, against owning the wireless monstrosity. For the most part, it sufficed. Nobody really called me - a quality most might find depressing, but I savored tenderly. And then I moved into the apartment, and things got messy. A big bloody mess.

In the apartment, I had no phone. Not even a land line. Ricky and Whitney both already had cell phones, so they certainly didn’t need another type of phone. And for the most part, I was comfortable with this arrangement. Other people found it inconvenient, but I am not in the habit of pleasing them. In any fashion.

And then a month later, I realized that my father might like to know his little boy was alive. So I had a few choices ahead of me. I could get a normal phone. Or a Trac (pay as you go) phone. Or a cell phone. Normal phones aren’t all that much cheaper than a cell phone, and Trac phones are wildly expensive. My choice had been pretty obvious.

Oh, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to get a cell phone. I didn’t want to be a tool to the man. I’ve been quite vocal about my loathing. I still think I fought the noble fight, but it appears the rest of the world has won. I shall forever live in shame.

The shame of defeat.

August 8th, 2006

New Status Effect

Anyone who has played an RPG is familiar with the concept of status effects on characters. The most common are probably poison and sleep. Most of the status effects that I know of are from the Final Fantasy( forever after refered to as FF ) video games. From what I can tell, however, is that all video games have the same status effects, they just name them something different. All RPGs also tend to have ways to cure them. This is usually either an item for each effect( antidote for poision, soft for stone, etc ), a cure-all item, or a spell for each/cure-all spell. The FF series uses all three, which is rather annoying because at end-game you never use those items since spells are much more effecient. Okay, now that we have some background, I would like to introduce my own, personal status effect to the gaming world of RPGs. This was inspired in part by Brian’s Parodica game as well as the recent trend in FF games, that is to make all of their main heros whiney little girls that could probably pass as girls by their look even though they are really dewds. Okay, the new status effect is Emo. Here is an example of a character( in this case, Chibbi Brian ) that has been afflicted with Emo.

Now, all status effects usually have some annoying or dangerous problem that makes them unwanted. Much like actual Emo-kids, the Emo status effect is more annoying and less harmful. The Emo-afflicted character will do one of two things when their turn comes around. They will either cut themselves for minimal damage just because life is not worth living or they will say some whiney emo-BS like “What are our lives worth, anyway.” The Emo status effect can be caused one of two ways: an enemy can be trendy and try to convince you that being trendy is cool( mediation-based attack ) or an enemy can fall in-love with you and “step on your heart with a stiletto heel”( Thanks, Trey Parker and Matt Stone ). The only cure for Emo is to be killed, because let’s face it, all emo-kids need to die anyway.

If you can think of another way for the Emo status effect to be cured, go ahead and post on the forums, I’d like to see some funny ideas.

~Zach

August 3rd, 2006

Memories

The REU program officially ends on Friday, and I feel it appropriate to reflect on the last ten weeks. I will do this in a stylized numbered list.

1) The people were awesome. I can honestly only say I despised one of them, whereas I genuinely liked the large majority. The one I despised? I can’t talk about her. Every time she comes up in conversation, it starts a half-hour long rant that ends with me getting kicked out of some restaurant because of “the use of words and phrases which made children visibly cringe and die a little on the inside.” I made that quote up, because I could only hope to receive that kind of praise.

2) The people were absolutely worthless. I can count on one hand - after cutting that hand in half with a chainsaw - the number of people who were productive. I don’t mean consistently productive. I mean productive on any day. I’d need a much bigger hand to count the number of people who just outright wouldn’t show up for half the day every day.

3) Jamie Cope needs to come back. Last year, when I was in the program, Jamie came in and taught us animation techniques and got us creating some pretty cool things. This year, in his place, the students had to build a website. I don’t know when the last time you built one of those was. I know you didn’t much care for it, because it’s boring. It’s hardly the type of work people interning in a Virtual Environments Lab ever expect to be doing. The students really got robbed with this trade-off.

4) University work isn’t. But that’s a rant I’ll save for when I’m reminiscing on my VEL work. I’m not sure if that will be in two days or in two weeks - one of those.

That’s really all there is to talk about. There weren’t many ‘big’ events to discuss, or at least none that were interesting. Or maybe there were - I wasn’t really ‘in the loop.’ I lead my own life in my apartment, the REU’s lead theres, and there were only a few crossovers in between. Overall, I’d say the program was a bit of a disappointment that needs more structure, more interesting work, and more focus.

But I am a member of the Fab Five.

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